Sometimes we enjoy a quotation because of who said it. Sometimes the quotation sheds light on our perception of the quoted. Sometimes we find a bit of Truth in them. Here are some of my favorites, arranged with a bit of a thematic flow. Enjoy the ride...  


Captain Beefheart’s 10 Commandments of Guitar Playing, as told by Jeff Moris Tepper
1. Listen to the birds
That's where all the music comes from. Birds know everything about how it should sound and where that sound should come from. And watch hummingbirds. They fly really fast, but a lot of times they aren't going anywhere.
2. Your guitar is not really a guitar Your guitar is a divining rod
Use it to find spirits in the other world and bring them over. A guitar is also a fishing rod. If you're good, you'll land a big one.
3. Practice in front of a bush 
Wait until the moon is out, then go outside, eat a multi-grained bread and play your guitar to a bush. If the bush dosen't shake, eat another piece of bread.
4. Walk with the devil 
Old Delta blues players referred to guitar amplifiers as the "devil box." And they were right. You have to be an equal opportunity employer in terms of who you're bringing over from the other side. Electricity attracts devils and demons. Other instruments attract other spirits. An acoustic guitar attracts Casper. A mandolin attracts Wendy. But an electric guitar attracts Beelzebub.
5. If you're guilty of thinking, you're out 
If your brain is part of the process, you're missing it. You should play like a drowning man, struggling to reach shore. If you can trap that feeling, then you have something that is fur bearing.
6. Never point your guitar at anyone 
Your instrument has more clout than lightning. Just hit a big chord then run outside to hear it. But make sure you are not standing in an open field.
7. Always carry a church key 
That's your key-man clause. Like One String Sam. He's one. He was a Detroit street musician who played in the fifties on a homemade instrument. His song "I Need a Hundred Dollars" is warm pie. Another key to the church is Hubert Sumlin, Howlin' Wolf's guitar player. He just stands there like the Statue of Liberty-making you want to look up her dress the whole time to see how he's doing it.
8. Don't wipe the sweat off your instrument 
You need that stink on there. Then you have to get that stink onto your music.
9. Keep your guitar in a dark place
When you're not playing your guitar, cover it and keep it in a dark place. If you don't play your guitar for more than a day, be sure you put a saucer of water in with it.
10. You gotta have a hood for your engine 
Keep that hat on. A hat is a pressure cooker. If you have a roof on your house, the hot air can't escape. Even a lima bean has to have a piece of wet paper around it to make it grow.

Information is not knowledge.
Knowledge is not wisdom.
Wisdom is not truth.
Truth is not beauty.
Beauty is not love.
Love is not music.
Music is THE BEST...
-- Frank Zappa 

All art constantly aspires to the condition of music.
-- Walter Pater

The purpose of music is to sober and quiet the mind, thus rendering it suseptible to divine influences.
-- Thomas Mace (17th century), transmitted to Gita Sarabhai, as told to John Cage

Music is silence, singing. 
Music is the cup that holds the wine of silence.
-- Robert Fripp

Silence is so accurate.
-- Mark Rothko

Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.
-- Stephen R. Covey

After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.
-- Aldous Huxley 

All music comes from God.
-- Johnny Cash

If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph: THE ONLY PROOF HE NEEDED FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD WAS MUSIC.
-- Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

My favorite music is the music I haven't yet heard.
-- John Cage

Without music life would be a mistake.
-- Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844-1900) German philosopher

There's a basic rule which runs through all kinds of music, kind of an unwritten rule. I don't know what it is. But I've got it.
-- Ron Wood

Music is far too important to be left in the hands of professionals.
-- Anonymous

Words make you think a thought. Music makes you feel a feeling. A song makes you feel a thought.
-- E.Y. Harburg (Edgar Yipsel) (1898 - 1981) 

Music is a means of rapid transportation.
-- John Cage 

We are no longer the same after hearing certain sounds, and this is more the case when we hear organized sounds, sounds organized by another human being: music.
-- Karlheinz Stockhausen

You can realign people's physical chemistry with sound.
-- Bob Mould

Without music to decorate it, time is just a bunch of boring production deadlines or dates by which bills must be paid.
-- Frank Zappa 

Heard as a succession of acoustical events, music will soon become boring; heard as the manifestation of time eventuating, it can never bore.
-- Victor Zuckerkandl, Sound and Symbol

Music is going to break the way because music is in a spiritual thing of its own. It's like the waves of the ocean. You can't just cut out the perfect wave and take it home with you.
-- Jimi Hendrix

Music is, by its very nature, essentially powerless to express anything at all. Music expresses itself.
-- Igor Stravinsky 

When asked what his new, rather agressive symphony "was about", Vaughan Williams drily replied: "It is about F minor".

Music is my mistress, and she plays second fiddle to no one.
-- Duke Ellington

Number is the Word but is not utterance; it is wave and light, though no one sees it; it is rhythm and music, though no one hears it. Its variations are limitless and yet it is immutable. Each form of life is a particular reverberation of Number.
-- Maurice Druon, from the Memoirs of Zeus

It's all one big note.
-- Frank Zappa's description of the universe. 

Music is more like water than a rhinoceros. It doesn't charge madly down one path. It runs away in every direction.
-- Elvis Costello

Music is the performance of sound. Theatre is the performance of appearance. Try not to confuse the two.
-- Coyote's advice to students

Performance is a vehicle for entering different worlds of experiencing.
-- Robert Fripp 

A performance: an attempt to do all the things we promised each other we would do at rehearsal.
-- Greg Meade

The notes I handle no better than many pianists. But the pauses between the notes --ah, that is where the art resides.
-- Artur Schnabel 

Don't play what's there, play what's not there.
-- Miles Davis 

During the rests -- pray.
-- Eugene Ormandy

Rock journalism is people who can't write, interviewing people who can't talk, in order to provide articles for people who can't read.
-- Frank Zappa 

I read on the Internet that I was dead.
-- Fiona Apple

The only person you have to think about lying twice to is either yourself or to God. The press isn't either of them. And I just figured they're irrelevant.
-- Bob Dylan 

Critics can't even make music by rubbing their back legs together.
-- Mel Brooks 

Music critics hate me and love Elvis Costello because they all look like Elvis Costello.
-- David Lee Roth

If one hears bad music it is one's duty to drown it by one's conversation.
-- Oscar Wilde 

Hell is full of musical amateurs.
-- George Bernard Shaw

The first sign of maturity is the discovery that the volume knob also turns to the left.
--"Smile" Zingers

I would like, with the sun shining through the window on a crisp early-autumnal mid-morning, with a sufficiency of Monster Cappucino flowing in my veins to prompt minimal sentience, to declare my view for the record that Drummer Jokes are a cruel and pernicious form of humour introduced to the world by under-humoured persons lacking in sensitivity and concern for other drummers.
-- Robert Fripp

The drummer drives. Everybody else rides!
-- Panama Francis

There is a difference between being a timekeeper and keeping the pulse or being in step with the pulse in the band.
-- Robert Fripp 

And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.
-- Friedrich Nietzsche

Some days you get up and put the horn to your chops and it sounds pretty good and you win. Some days you try and nothing works and the horn wins. This goes on and on and then you die and the horn wins.
-- Dizzy Gillespie 

Musicians don't retire; they stop when there's no more music in them.
-- Louis Armstrong

If you have to ask what jazz is, you'll never know.
-- Louis Armstrong

Jazz is the only music in which the same note can be played night after night but differently each time.
-- Ornette Coleman

We never play anything the same way once.
-- Shelly Manne's definition of jazz musicians 

"It's just a 12-bar blues" is usually followed by the devil whispering "sucker."
-- the Coyote 

Composition is frozen improvisation.
-- Igor Stravinsky

The only reason to write a new song is because you're tired of the old ones.
-- Miles Davis

Don't bother to look, I've composed all this already.
-- Gustav Mahler, to Bruno Walter who had stopped to admire mountain scenery in rural Austria.

Anything played wrong twice in a row is the beginning of an arrangement.
-- Frank Zappa 

That wasn't a mistake, that was innovation.
-- Keith Richards

You can't always write a chord ugly enough to say what you want to say, so sometimes you have to rely on a giraffe filled with whipped cream.
-- Frank Zappa 

Wagner's music is better than it sounds.
-- Mark Twain

Berlioz says nothing in his music, but he says it magnificently.
-- James Gibbons Hunekar

If a young man at the age of twenty-three can write a symphony like that, in five years he will be ready to commit murder.
-- Walter Damrosch on Aaron Copland

There are still so many beautiful things to be said in C major.
-- Sergei Prokofiev 

No, it's a Bb. It looks wrong and it sounds wrong. But it's right.
-- Ralph Vaughn Williams

The notes are right, but if I listened they would be wrong.
-- Eugene Ormandy

A composer is a guy who goes around forcing his will on unsuspecting air molecules, often with the assistance of unsuspecting musicians.
-- Frank Zappa

I never use a score when conducting my orchestra. Does a lion tamer enter a cage with a book on how to tame a lion?
-- Dimitri Mitropolous

"Conducting'' is when you draw "designs'' in the nowhere -- with your stick, or with your hands -- which are interpreted as "instructional messages'' by guys wearing bow ties who wish they were fishing.
-- Frank Zappa 

I was trying to help you, so I was beating wrong.
-- Eugene Ormandy

Never look at the trombones, it only encourages them.
-- Richard Strauss

God tells me how the music should sound, but you stand in the way.
-- Arturo Toscanini to a trumpet player 

At every concert I've sensed a certain insecurity about the tempo. It's clearly marked 80...uh, 69.
-- Eugene Ormandy

Already too loud!
-- Bruno Walter at his first rehearsal with an American orchestra, on seeing the players reaching for their instruments.
Eugene Ormandy (To the Woodwinds): There are no woodwinds at Number 6.
Woodwinds: We're at number 15.
EO: I know. That is why.

A gentleman is someone who knows how to play the accordion, and doesn't.
-- Al Cohn  

Amateurs practice until they get it right. Professionals practice until they never get it wrong.
-- Anon.

Music is a very hard instrument.
-- Vido Musso 

It is not as difficult as I thought it was, but it is harder than it is.
-- Eugene Ormandy

Practice at home. Rehearse with the band. Perform for the audience.
-- Wes Houston to a bass player who wouldn't stop noodling during a rehearsal

The disgusting stink of a too loud electric guitar; now that's my idea of a good time.
-- Frank Zappa 

I never killed anyone with my tuba.
-- Bill Barber, on his experience in World War II

The only tune they play in 4/4 is 'Take Five!'
-- (unknown, talking about the Don Ellis band)

If I could play like Wynton (Marsalis), I wouldn't play like Wynton.
-- Chet Baker

I'm too old to pimp, and too young to die, so I'm just gon' keep playin'.
-- Clark Terry

A great teacher is one who realizes that he himself is also a student and whose goal is not dictate the answers, but to stimulate his students' creativity enough so that they go out and find the answers themselves.
-- Herbie Hancock

Learning music by reading about it is like making love by mail.
--Luciano Pavarotti

Good instruction leads to insight.
--The Coyote

Here is the advice of Theloneous Monk to Steve Lacy, written in Steve's hand, from Steve's notebook. This collection of aphorisms is some of the best instruction I've seen in one place:
Theloneous Monk's Advice to Steve Lacy

And this, from Chick Corea:


I am not handsome, but when women hear me play, they come crawling to my feet.
-- Niccoló Paganini

What is the voice of song, when the world lacks the ear of taste?
-- Nathaniel Hawthorne

Flint must be an extremely wealthy town: I see that each of you bought two or three seats.
-- Victor Borge, playing to a half-filled house in Flint, Michigan.

Oh, look! It's my friends, the chairs!
-- Tiny Tim, upon seeing a near-empty house

I see we have a very selective audience tonight.
-- Jim Hall, playing to a half-empty house

Life can't be all bad when for ten dollars you can buy all the Beethoven sonatas and listen to them for ten years.
-- William F. Buckley, Jr.

You can't possibly hear the last movement of Beethoven's Seventh and go slow.
-- Oscar Levant, explaining his way out of a speeding ticket.

I really don't know whether any place contains more pianists than Paris, or whether you can find more asses and virtuosos anywhere.
-- Frederic Chopin 

Why can't I be different and original, like everybody else? 
--  Vivian Stanshall

When she started to play, Steinway himself came down personally and rubbed his name off the piano.
--Bob Hope, on comedienne Phyllis Diller

In opera, there is always too much singing.
-- Claude Debussy

Oh how wonderful, really wonderful opera would be if there were no singers!
-- Giacchino Rossini

The bottom line of any country is, what did we contribute to the world? We contributed Louis Armstrong.
-- Tony Bennett

What we play is life.
-- Louis Armstrong

Whether you are playing in the bar, the church, the strip joint, or the Himalayas, the first duty of music is to complement and enhance life.
-- Carlos Santana 

Music is spiritual. The music business is not.
-- Van Morrison 

Until I started running in this music business, I had never lived around no people that would kill they own brother, like, for a lousy dollar, or would rob they own family for a few nickels.
-- Big Bill Broonzy

The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where pimps and thieves run free and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side.
-- Hunter S. Thompson

Honest songs aren`t written for money.
-- Pete Seeger

Nobody looks good bent over. Especially to pick up a check.
-- Frank Zappa 

 When a record company makes a mistake, the artist pays for it.
When a manager makes a mistake, the artist pays for it.
When the artist makes a mistake, the artist pays for it.
-- Robert Fripp

I would rather play Chiquita Banana and have my swimming pool than play Bach and starve.
-- Xavier Cugat 

One of the perks of being an unemployed musician is that you get to play much less bad music.
-- Jack Daney
A good pro can play what is asked of them, regardless of like & dislike, regardless of whether they love what they are playing, hate what they are playing, and/or have no particular feelings for what they are playing. One professional strength is cultivated impartiality, adopting a form of advocacy for what is being played & to act on the music’s behalf; this assuming a respect for the music and/or its composer. The flipside/downside of this is, a professional may play music in which they have no trust, no faith, no love; that is, they lie for money.
-- Robert Fripp

A gig can have three things:
1. Yer learning something.
2. Yer having fun.
3. Yer making money.
If the gig don't have two of the three you shouldn't be there.
-- Tommy Tedesco, via Todd Evans on Facebook

I don’t ever take the guitar out of my case unless I’m either going to learn something, have fun, or make some money.
-- attributed to Charlie Christian via Barney Kessel in this interview: Thanks to the mighty and majestic Joe Silver for the amendation.

I weigh three things when I take a gig:
1. Will the music be amazing?
2. Will I play with/for good people?
3. Do I need the money?
-- The Coyote

Fripp once told me a formula for keeping a band together. I think he said it was Michael Giles who came up with it, though it might have been some other character from his past. To my memory it goes like this.
You have three elements:
1. The People
2. The Music
3. The Money
Any two and the group will stay together. Any less than two and it won't. All three is bliss. 
-- Trey Gunn, from his March 8, 2015 diary.

[Musicians] talk of nothing but money and jobs. Give me businessmen every time. They really are interested in music and art.
-- Jean Sibelius, explaining why he rarely invited musicians to his home.

Only become a musician if there is absolutely no other way you can make a living.
-- Kirke Mecham, on his life as a composer

To be a musician is a curse. To NOT be one is even worse.
-- Jack Daney

I've never known a musician who regretted being one. Whatever deceptions life may have in store for you, music itself is not going to let you down.
- Virgil Thomson

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